During lockdown, video calls replaced in-person meetings for many people. We got familiar with Zoom, Facetime, House Party, Skype or other platforms.

Now lockdown is over in New Zealand some organisations are sticking with video meetings to save travel costs – both in time and money.

Despite how prevalent TV news interviews by video call have become, I am often surprised at how amateurish interviewees look. I know an epidemiologist or an economist is not a videographer but it is not hard to look professional whether it is for TV or a work meeting.

First, regardless of the platform you are using, check out the programme’s settings to see what you can do. Many have the option to mute the sound (which I recommend) and block the video when you first join a meeting so you can make sure you’re ready before being heard and seen.

Second, test your camera before any meeting. I recently had a Zoom call with friends who sat with their backs to their admittedly lovely view. The view was great but none of us could see their faces.

Face towards the light and, if you can, use natural light; if not, use a lamp. Avoid a light directly above you that will cast shadows, usually resulting in dark circles appearing under your eyes.

During your camera test also look at the position of your camera. Raise or lower your device so the camera is at your eye level or slightly above. If you have it too low, double chins may materialise on your face. Do not sit too close. Webcams often have wide angle cameras and if you sit too close, you will look distorted.

Make sure your background is not cluttered and is free of anything that may offend. Your room does not have to be sterile, but make sure it is tidy and not distracting.

Some platforms let you have fun with backgrounds – you can choose from their offerings or use your own photos or video. If you are going down that route for a work call, obviously choose something that you are confident your boss or colleagues will be okay with.

Dress appropriately for your work but watch out for tops that have patterns that are too distracting and avoid stripes, which can cause a strobing effect. Try to avoid jewellery that jangles or catches the light. And just in case you need to get up – please wear pants.

Third, test your audio. Using a headset with a built in microphone is a good option – it can help block out noise around you, particularly if you are at home and there might be noisy children or animals. Note that sound is best when dampened down by the fabric present in a lounge or bedroom while a bathroom’s hard surfaces result in a lot of echo.

Shutting down other programmes and apps will help the video run more smoothly, and if you have a computer, plugging directly into your modem by ethernet cable can help with data speed.

If you are in a regular meeting, attendees will usually focus on whoever is talking. You can zone out for a bit without being seen. But on a video call you are always on screen so if you are fidgeting, staring off into the distance vacantly or checking your phone, it will be more noticeable. That is one of the reasons video calls are so tiring – you must stay engaged (or at least look like you are) the entire time.

Oh, and people will also be able to see if you are checking yourself out – so do any adjustments to your posture and hair before the meeting starts!